Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady visited Jacksonville Thursday at the request of The Jacksonville Bar Association to be the first guest speaker of the 2010-2011 term.
His speech brought attention to the need for a better funded court system and a need for pro bono help.
Canady had a tough act to follow as he was introduced, with the assistance of a recorded video message, by U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw. The two share a common path as both were lawyers and both have served Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I know him to be bright, to be smart, to be relatively young - not unattractive - and he’s going to be a great chief justice,” said Crenshaw.
“So, while I can’t be there today, I certainly wish him well. And, thank you all for asking me to introduce him even though it’s via this incredible telecommunications system that we have.”
Canady approached the podium with a smile on his face after the message finished.
“That’s not the first time I’ve been upstaged by my introduction,” said Canady.
After the humorous beginning, Canady concentrated on the tough task ahead for the Florida State Court System.
“As chief justice, my top priority is making sure we have adequate funding for the courts,” said Canady. “We have been faced with a decline in resources at a time when we are experiencing a caseload the likes we haven’t seen before.”
The State Court System receives less than 1 percent of the state’s budget and the governor has requested $459.8 million of the state’s just over $69 billion 2010-2011 proposed budget for the court system.
“We are laboring over a mountain of cases spawned by the foreclosure crisis,” said Canady. “We have received funds from the Legislature to pay for senior judges in foreclosure courts, but, overall, we have seen our resources shrink.”
He pointed out that some states, including neighbors Alabama and Georgia, have twice the number of judges per capita that Florida has.
“I’m not saying that we need to increase the number of judges. It’s not an issue about judges, about lawyers,” said Canady. “It’s about men and women who have cases before the courts of this state that rely on the courts to provide them with justice.”
One way the legal community could help to reduce the caseload is to donate time to pro bono efforts, said Canady.
“We have a privilege of giving life to the rule of law everyday,” said Canady. “Being able to provide that service to someone who may not be able to afford it is a very rewarding and humbling experience.”
Shortly after being appointed to the Florida Supreme Court Sept. 8, 2008, by Gov. Charlie Crist, Canady was appointed Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. The honor normally goes to the most senior judge who has not served, but due to four new justices being appointed recently by Crist, Canady was appointed quickly after joining the court.
He was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court from the Second District Court of Appeal, where he had served since 2002. Before joining the bench, Canady was General Counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush and preceded that service with three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1994-2001, and three terms in the State House of Representatives, 1984- 1990. Prior to his legislative career he practiced law at Holland & Knight and Lane, Trohn.